I hear so often how hard it is to hire, inspire, train and retain quality employees, specifically millennials. I’m a millennial and manage a large team of them, and the honest truth is that it’s not that hard; you just may not be good at it yet. Despite what most business owners seem to say, the more than 100 full-time millennials I manage aren’t “impossible to manage” or “impossible to retain.”
If you want to effectively hire and manage millennials, you may need to take a different approach than you’re used to. According to a 2018 survey by Deloitte, “Attracting and retaining millennials and Gen Z respondents begins with financial rewards and workplace culture; it is enhanced when businesses and their senior management teams are diverse, and when the workplace offers higher degrees of flexibility.”
Although many people seem to believe that millennials don’t work as hard as previous generations, I’ve found that millennials can be your greatest allies and your hardest working group of employees if you manage them correctly. Below are a few ways to do just that.
1. Have a shared vision.
For many millennials, money isn’t the only factor in deciding where they choose to work. They want to know that they’re contributing to a place that contributes to the greater good and that what they’re doing actually matters and has a purpose. Helping them see that purpose can be one of the keys to successfully managing millennials. As best-selling author Ken Blanchard and his colleagues wrote in Leading at a Higher Level, “The greatest leaders mobilize others by coalescing people around a shared vision.”
Mobilization begins with knowing your vision and the problem it can solve. But it isn’t enough to know it — you have to share it, and not just once. It has to become a priority. Your “why” is the rudder guiding the ship that is your company.
After the vision is common knowledge, the key becomes holding yourself accountable to the business’s mission because I’ve found that many millennials have the boldness to call you out if you’re not upholding your own standards. As the manager or the owner, you set the standards. If you cannot or do not hold yourself to the same standards that you set, how in good conscience could you possibly ask someone else to adhere to them? The “Do as I say, not as I do” adage doesn’t usually work in management. People want a leader they can respect, and that all starts with holding yourself accountable and doing what you say you’re going to do.
2. Find out their goals, and create a path for them to achieve their goals.
Too often, we see managers who aren’t focused on their employees and are only thinking about either the company’s bottom line or what they should get for lunch. Treat your employees like humans. Take the time to sit down with them and go over their one-year, five-year and 10-year goals. Your job is to help them reach their goals (within reason), and you cannot help them do that if you don’t know what their goals are and the deadlines they have for the achieving them.
Once you know what their goals are, show them the path that they can take to achieve them. For instance, if they want to eventually move on from an entry-level role, show them how they can climb up the ladder by applying themselves. Never let your employees feel stuck within a specific role. Listen to them when they tell you what their interests are, and help them get there.
3. Support them in continued learning.
Stagnancy can be detrimental to people who want to learn, and in my experience, millennials tend to want to learn new skills and increase their knowledge more than almost anything else. It’s important as the business owner or manager to create a path for them to develop.
In our company, that has included holding weekly meetings devoted to learning from our CEO. We also encourage a fluid career path where employees can cross into other departments once they’ve mastered a skill.
4. Provide ongoing mentorship.
This is one of the most important things you can do when you’re managing millennials. Check in with your employees regularly, and help them with the areas that they’re struggling with. Give them immediate feedback. Consider having a weekly team training meeting to help your team reset, refocus and recalibrate. Keep your team involved in the business, and teach them the specific steps for how to better their lives both inside and outside the workplace.
To become an effective manager of millennials, I encourage you to remember what Stephen Covey, the best-selling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, wrote: “Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” This advice rings true — how you treat your employees is typically exactly how they’ll treat your customers. Putting this advice into action means embracing and accommodating the different things that your employees bring to the table, encouraging their strengths and helping them overcome their weaknesses. At my company, we’ve found that when we share the vision and provide mentorship, learning opportunities and goal-focused direction, millennials respond and thrive.